An experiment in two California schools suggests that watching less television cuts down on children’s aggressive behavior.
The study by researchers from the Stanford University Medical Center—who followed 3rd and 4th graders at San Jose elementary schools—examined students who were in a program designed to decrease the amount of television they watch. Researchers then assessed resulting changes in aggressive thoughts and behavior.
The researchers had pupils at one of the schools take television- reduction classes for six months. The youngsters were encouraged to reduce the amount of time they spent watching any television or videos, or playing video games, to seven hours a week during the study.
They were also taught to be more selective about what they watched.
Students at the other school did not take the classes.
At the beginning of the experiment, students in both schools were tested for a baseline of aggressive behavior and thoughts. Behavior was assessed by students’ self-reviews and peer reviews, parent interviews, and direct observation by the researchers.
They found that the control group showed no change in behavior, but that the children taking part in the program showed a significant decrease in aggressive thoughts and behaviors.
John Murray, a professor of developmental psychology at Kansas State University, said the Stanford study’s findings were “very welcome” because they “add to the body of concern that has been expressed about the impact of [television] viewing in general.”
That concern has grown for educators and policymakers across the nation in the wake of violent acts committed by elementary-age children and older students—acts some experts believe were at least partly influenced by the violence they had witnessed on television or encountered in simulations while playing computer games.
— Vanessa Dea
A version of this article appeared in the January 31, 2001 edition of Education Week as In Short